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Caring for a Japanese knife for normal people?
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Thread: Caring for a Japanese knife for normal people?

  1. #1

    Caring for a Japanese knife for normal people?

    Hello,

    I picked up a Masakage Kumo today and was hoping to get an idea of how to care for it.

    I've seen a lot of people advise lengthy care procedures which seem a bit overboard to me. I just want to use the thing and enjoy it in the kitchen.

    Apart from the normal knife advice (no dishwasher, dry and store in a block after use, etc), is there anything special this knife needs? Should I hone it? Can I do it on a normal steel or do I need something harder like a ceramic steel? Oiling?

    Are these easy to sharpen on a japanese stones, or am I better off letting the pros handle it?

    Thanks for your advice, and my apologies in advance if this isnt the right forum to be asking.

  2. #2
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    I don't have time to write anything too detailed at the moment, but DO NOT use it with a normal steel, it will cause a lot of problems. If you want it to be sharp then it will need to be sharpened from time to time, every few weeks for home use. I strongly recommend you learn to sharpen it yourself because then you can sharpen the edge to have the geometry and style which suits you best. If you're not familiar with sharpening then it will be a long, but rewarding process to learn.

    Use an appropriate cutting board, plastic or bamboo is okay, wood is the best for the knife though. Make sure the edge of the knife doesn't come into contact with anything particularly hard if you want to avoid chips. This means metal cutlery, ceramic materials, bone etc. Some less obvious things which can ruin an edge are things like salt, sugar, vegetables with dirt or sand and hard crusts or seeds.

    As far as I can tell, you have a stainless knife. Don't be too concerned about water on the blade, but obviously keep it dry when it's not in use.

    You say "I just want to use the thing and enjoy it in the kitchen". This is a very fair statement, but you will find a lot of people here enjoy using a knife in it's peak condition, and quickly notice when sharpness begins to fall. It's a side effect of sharping doing the yourself. This means a lot of us avoid things like scraping the board with the edge, chopping to vigorously etc and it can come off as being overprotective, but when you sharpen a knife over a period of time you build a 'friendship' with it and you learn what it likes and dislikes. It sounds weird but that's the way it goes.

  3. #3
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    Welcome to the Forum

    When talking or writing about how do a certain task or activity, things tend to sound more complicated then what they are.

    Japanese knives in general use a steel that is harder, then ones from Germany, such as Henkels and Wustoff. This makes for a lighter knife, that can take a keen edge and retain that edge much longer then a German knife. The downside, when Japanese knife hits a hard object, it is much more likely to chip. A German knife, with softer steel, the edge will roll. A few passes on a steel, will straighten out the edge.

    German knives can take more abuse and are easier to maintain then a Japanese knife. There are stories that German knives are popular in Japan because of their ease of maintenance and being more robust, then their Japanese counter part.

    The first thing then is to know that Japanese knives are more fragile, then German knives. Protecting and maintaining the edge is the goal. Most of it, is common sense, don't use a glass cutting board, don't throw the knife into a sink, or dishwasher, don't cut food that is frozen solid, don't cut bones.

    A gyuto can break down a chicken, because the cartilage at the joints is relatively soft. Trying to cut through the bones, isn't a good idea.

    Anything that is higher end, requires an increased skill level. To get the most out of a Japanese knife, a person needs to learn how to sharpen, or at the very least maintain the edge, either by stropping or using a ceramic steel. The basics of sharpening are not hard to learn. There are some good videos on YouTube. Sharpening classes are a great way to start.

    Depending on where you live, if things have a tendency to rust easily, then you will want, to protect your knife with a thin coating of oil. Especially if you are going to store the knife.

    Jay
    I'm a over-sized, under-educated, two onions a month, cutting fool.

  4. #4
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    I just want to throw out there that "If you want it to be sharp then it will need to be sharpened from time to time, every few weeks for home use." is definitely an aggressive interpretation. Many think that you can sharpen every 3-6 months depending upon use, although preferably maintenance such as stropping.

    Don't let the supposed rules scare you, most knives can handle normal use and even some (or a lot of) punishment quite well. People here are much more aware of the care and performance of their knives, sometimes a bit over the top. Most rules are common sense, once you start considering how certain actions will affect your edge.

  5. #5
    Thanks very much for all of your advice, everyone.

    I'll avoid the steel and pick up a ceramic one instead.

    I've taken a knife sharpening class in the past, which was on Japanese stones. For a home amateur, what should I be looking to spend to get a set of decent stones?

    Thankfully, I end up doing most of what you all advise in the kitchen (wood board, keep the knives away from other cutlery, etc), but I didnt think about grit on vegetables or salt.

    I'm really looking forward to cooking with this knife, and have a huge amount of respect for the traditions and skill of the makers of all parts of it.

    I didnt mean to come off as flippant in my post, I just know that I may not have the time some people have to devote to their knives, and wanted to ideas for habits to get in to while caring for this thing.

    Again, thanks for your replies!

  6. #6
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    Depending on which sharpening style you end up using, I will warn against one thing. If you choose sectional sharpening, pay careful attention to the strokes to even things out. I got a bit aggressive early and altered the shape of one of my knives that I had to cut a decent amount of steel to even out. I think it was mainly from focusing on the heel and overlapping the next section, but just wanted to point out the error.

  7. #7
    Dave's core set of stones should be all that you need for a good while (when you decide to take it on more)
    Have a knife day!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mucho Bocho's Avatar
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    Here Here Squilliam!

    Quote Originally Posted by Squilliam View Post
    I don't have time to write anything too detailed at the moment, but DO NOT use it with a normal steel, it will cause a lot of problems. If you want it to be sharp then it will need to be sharpened from time to time, every few weeks for home use. I strongly recommend you learn to sharpen it yourself because then you can sharpen the edge to have the geometry and style which suits you best. If you're not familiar with sharpening then it will be a long, but rewarding process to learn.

    Use an appropriate cutting board, plastic or bamboo is okay, wood is the best for the knife though. Make sure the edge of the knife doesn't come into contact with anything particularly hard if you want to avoid chips. This means metal cutlery, ceramic materials, bone etc. Some less obvious things which can ruin an edge are things like salt, sugar, vegetables with dirt or sand and hard crusts or seeds.

    As far as I can tell, you have a stainless knife. Don't be too concerned about water on the blade, but obviously keep it dry when it's not in use.

    You say "I just want to use the thing and enjoy it in the kitchen". This is a very fair statement, but you will find a lot of people here enjoy using a knife in it's peak condition, and quickly notice when sharpness begins to fall. It's a side effect of sharping doing the yourself. This means a lot of us avoid things like scraping the board with the edge, chopping to vigorously etc and it can come off as being overprotective, but when you sharpen a knife over a period of time you build a 'friendship' with it and you learn what it likes and dislikes. It sounds weird but that's the way it goes.
    One thing you can give and still keep...is your word.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Squilliam View Post
    I don't have time to write anything too detailed at the moment, but DO NOT use it with a normal steel, it will cause a lot of problems.
    I do agree with most of this things you said except for this. A normal steel will NOT cause ANY problems to a knife. Is it the best thing to use? No, not at all. Sharpening, stropping or a ceramic steel are all better options! But no, a traditional steel will not damage your knives in any way, shape or form. If you do decide to use one, do not use it like the clowns on TV (see: Gordon Ramsey).

    -Chuck

  10. #10
    This is what Masakage recommends for knife care, http://www.masakageknives.com/knifecare.html.

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